Finland voters go to polls as PM Sanna Marin battles to stay in power

Polls suggest the three leading parties in election are running neck-and-neck

Polling stations have opened in a knife-edge election in Finland, with polls suggesting the three leading parties are running neck-and-neck and Prime Minister Sanna Marin may face an uphill battle to stay in power.

A final poll for public broadcaster Yle – with a margin of error of two percentage points – put the conservative National Coalition party (NCP) on 19.8 per cent, the far-right, nationalist Finns party on 19.5 per cent, and Ms Marin’s Social Democrats (SDP) on 18.7 per cent.

Ms Marin (37) became the world’s youngest prime minister when she assumed the leadership of the SDP – and the Finnish premiership – in 2019 and has successfully led the country through the Covid pandemic and to the brink of Nato membership.

Her determination to enjoy a social life has also made headlines, with fans hailing her as a rising star of the centre-left and model for a new generation of young women leaders. Critics argue her behaviour has at times been inappropriate for her office.


She was forced to apologise and took a drug test last year but also defended her right to party, after photos and video emerged of her drinking and dancing with friends.

Ms Marin remains more popular than both her party and rival political leaders, with an opinion poll for the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper in December finding 64 per cent of respondents felt she had done a “very” or “fairly” good job as prime minister.

But with recession forecast and inflation surging, opposition leaders’ accusations of excessive government borrowing and inflated public spending – along with their pledges to impose tough cuts, particularly on welfare budgets – have proved effective.

The NCP’s Petteri Orpo has promised to slash spending on unemployment and housing benefits, while Riikka Purra of the Finns – who were previously part of a coalition government from 2015 to 2017 – says their priority is to cut non-EU immigration.

The leader of the winning party usually has the first go at forming a government, but this may not be the case this time as several parties have already ruled out certain options, especially with the Finns. Coalition talks are likely to be long and hard.

Ms Marin’s SDP and two of her current five-party coalition, the Greens and the Left Alliance, have said they will not go into government with the Finns.

Of the two others, the Swedish People’s party has said it is “very unlikely” to partner with the far-right party, while the once-powerful agrarian Centre party, whose vote has plunged in recent years, will not join any coalition resembling the current one.

The NCP has not excluded any combination, saying it will wait to see the results. If it finishes first it could try to put together a right-leaning “blue-black” coalition with the Finns, or pursue a broad “blue-red” alliance with the SDP.

As many as 10 parties could win seats in the 200-seat parliament.

Polls open at 9am local time on Sunday, with early results from the 31 per cent of voters who cast ballots in advance due at 8pm when voting ends. The outcome should be clear by midnight. – Guardian